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O's pitchers, catchers join early camp attendees

Spring Training officially opens as Baltimore seeks return to postseason contention

SARASOTA, Fla. -- While the players have been trickling in for weeks, Thursday marked the official day for all Orioles pitchers and catchers to report to Ed Smith Stadium.

While Baltimore was hit with a huge snowstorm, the team's spring facility experienced mild temperatures as numerous players worked out in advance of Friday's first practice for pitchers and catchers.

"It's the most I've ever had in 30-something years this early," manager Buck Showalter said of the early attendance at Spring Training.

"The facility is one [reason]. It's a great facility ... this place buzzes the whole offseason, and Baltimore does, too. I think [the players] like being here. It's a good environment. They know they're not going to come in here and it's going to be some dictatorial boot camp. It's going to be somewhat casual. If they don't stay out there two hours, nobody's going to question it. That's intentional. I do think there's some competition here. Also, guys look around at the weather they've been in, I'm sure some of them say, 'I'm going down [to Florida].'"

Among the position players in attendance on Thursday were Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, David Lough, Henry Urrutia and a noticeably bigger Nick Markakis. Showalter said the only potential arrival issue right now is right-handed pitcher Fabio Castilla, who is having weather-related trouble flying out of the Dominican Republic.

Top infield prospect Jonathan Schoop, who had visa issues and was unable to attend FanFest, also worked out at Ed Smith Stadium on Thursday, and he's expected to help the big league club at some point this season. Schoop, viewed as the second baseman of the future, will likely start the year at Triple-A, with Ryan Flaherty the leading in-house candidates for that spot. Showalter said Flaherty will not get any early reps at third base.

"That's why we're going to get a good look at [Rule 5 Draft pick] Michael Almanzar," Showalter said. "[Flaherty is] concentrating on playing second base. He's trying to win the second-base job. You won't see him over at third base. If we get to a point where we don't think [Manny Machado] is going to make it, there'll be plenty of time for someone to go over at third base."

Machado's rehab from knee surgery will be closely watched, while Reimold -- who was limited at the start of last year's spring camp -- said he is fully ready and expects to be able to play games once they begin.

"I'm cleared for unrestricted activities," Reimold said. "I've been doing that. The neck feels good. The one thing that's a little different is I had the surgery a month later [than last year's surgery], so the muscles around the neck are like a month behind where they were last year. I'm still doing my exercises and stuff. It should keep improving. It's fine right now as it is, and I can do everything, but that's just one thing I keep in the back of my mind."

Reimold and the other position players here early will work out at their own discretion, while the first organized workout for pitchers and catchers will take place Friday at noon ET. Fans are invited to watch the team's workouts on the back fields at the complex each day until Saturday, March 1, when home games begin. There is no charge to attend, and free parking is available in the East Lot off 12th Street and Tuttle Avenue.

The club will generally work out from approximately 9:15 a.m. to noon each day, and the first full-squad workout is slated for Wednesday.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.
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